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Facebook Unveils Simpler Privacy Policy

Monday, December 8th, 2014

In a bid to explain how it handles the personal data of a billion plus users, Facebook has unveiled a simplified version of its privacy policy. Unlike the earlier versions of the policy which were full of legal and technical jargon, the new version is much easier to understand thanks to the generous use of illustration. At just 2,700 words long, the new policy is also significantly shorter than the previous version which consisted of more than 9,000 words.

Most web service providers chose to publish their usage policies on long and boring text-only pages but Facebook has decided to take a novel approach and explain its privacy policy through pictures and animations. The social networking giant has published a series of clickable and colorful pages known as “Privacy Basics” that clearly explain what data others can see about you, how other users can interact with you as well as what you as a user can see and do. There is also a feedback section available which allows users to post comments and even suggest changes to the policy. Facebook has promised to consider meaningful suggestions and incorporate them into the future versions of the policy.

Facebook has had a rather patchy record as far as the matter of user privacy is concerned but the company is now attempting to make things clear regarding how it shares user data with others. The new policy clearly states that Facebook will share user data with third parties to offer its services or for legal reasons as long as the user has explicitly given the permission to do so. In addition, users have the option of sharing or not sharing their data with third party apps but unfortunately they cannot cherry pick the type of data that they are willing to share. The company has also stated that it reserves the right to share user data with service providers which render services that are required for the smooth functioning of the website. The list of such providers may include web hosting companies, payment processors, companies that provide emailing or search functionality on Facebook, and so on.

The new policy also sheds a light on how Facebook makes user data available to advertisers. The policy says that the company has the right to use the information that any user may post on the site for the purpose of advertising even if he/she is not logged in. What’s more, advertisers can not only target users based on the city mentioned in their profile but also based on their current locations. Facebook can determine a user’s location through GPS co-ordinates of Smartphones, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals and the same information is available to advertisers for location based advertising.

For users who make financial transactions through Facebook (for buying game credits or making donations), is it vital to know that the company keeps a record of all the transaction. This includes payment details such as credit card numbers, contact information (including billing and shipping addresses) as well as authentication information required to complete the transaction.

To conclude, the latest privacy policy from Facebook is a sincere attempt in the right direction. However, the policy is still not perfect since there are many grey areas that are not covered or explained thoroughly. If you have a question or suggestion regarding the new privacy policy, do not hesitate to send it to Facebook.

December 8, 2014

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